Every murder mystery fan must have come across the name Agatha Christie. Agatha Christie is one of the most widely-known crime authors in the world and one of the best at that. She has written over 66 detective stories and 14 short story collections, excluding her autobiography and other fiction. She is undoubtedly considered the ‘Queen of Crime’ as her books have sold over two billion copies.
Best Agatha Christie Books To Read!
For first-time readers of Christie, it is a daunting task to figure out which books from extensive bibliography they should read first. Rest assured, this article features a list of my top ten Agatha Christie books, ranked according to the order to be read, for beginners to the Agatha Christie literary world.
1. And Then There Were None
This list would be incomplete without placing the best-selling mystery novel of all time in the honorable number one position. This book is by far the best book written by Agatha Christie, and it is her best-selling book which catapulted her fame as a great novelist. This book also has the indubitable honor of having inspired the most adaptations and other books based on it.
Christie herself has stated that this was a better piece of craftsmanship than anything she has ever written and that it was challenging to write. The book begins with ten people together on an island – eight guests and two servants. The guests are invited to this deserted island home by someone named U. N. Owen (A play on the word unknown).
When the guests are settled down for dinner, a message begins to play on the phonograph record accusing the guests and the two servants of being murderers. It also tells them to offer up their defense or face the consequences of their actions. None of the people are willing to come forward with their defense, and soon they find themselves dying one after the other following the nursery rhyme Ten Little Soldiers.
Each of the victims is killed in a manner to each corresponding line of the poem until, finally, there are none alive. This book is a nail-bitingly gripping read from beginning to end and will give new readers an insight into why Agatha Christie has been ruling the literary crime world for over a century. There is also a play based on this story but with a different ending, written by the author herself. I recommend reading the play version as well after reading the original. You can get the book here! 📖
2. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
This was the novel that first showcased Agatha Christie as one of the best upcoming crime writers in the world. At the time of the publication of this book, it had mixed responses, with a division of people praising the twist ending and others who found it controversial. Nevertheless, this book has topped numerous best crime novel lists for almost a century since its publication.
Taking a different turn from her usual writing style, Christie writes this novel from the first-person point of view of a new character, Dr. James Sheppard. He is a doctor in the village this novel is set in. At the beginning of the book, we see him attending a dinner party organized by one of the wealthy people in the village, Mr. Roger Ackroyd.
Mr. Ackroyd has something important to tell him, but before he can do so, he dies, unfortunately. One of the dead man’s relatives enlists the help of Hercule Poirot, who has retired and settled down in the countryside, attempting to grow vegetable marrows, to find the killer. He asks his neighbor, our narrator Dr. Sheppard, to aid him with the case.
Together these two try to solve the murder using Poirot’s famed “gray cells” and the keen insight of Dr. Sheppard, who is a step up from Poirot’s usual lackey, Captain Hastings. The plot follows the usual Poirot book staples with a final denouement. But the twist in the ending, which introduced a new trope in the crime fiction world, makes this book one of the best Agatha Christie books ever. This book is well worth the hype and is an excellent introduction to the author’s work. You can get the book here! 📖
3. The Murder on The Orient Express
A real-life event, the kidnapping and murder of the Lindbergh baby in 1932, inspired this novel. Christie wanted to write a novel based on this heinous crime and decided to have the setting as the Orient Express owing to her travels and experiences on the train. This is another one of her books with a twist ending and showcases Christie’s strong sense of Justice over following the law. Hercule Poirot is in Istanbul at the beginning of the story and has been asked to return to London post haste.
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He manages to secure a place on the Orient Express and meets his fellow passengers, including a sleazy American businessman, Samuel Ratchett. Ratchett propositions Poirot to protect him, as he receives death threats, but the latter refuses. That night, Ratchett was found dead in his compartment. Poirot begins to suspect the other passengers in their coach. The train stuck due to a snowstorm makes it easier for Poirot to do his work.
He begins to suspect that not all the passengers may be who they say they are and that many people would want Ratchett dead, making his work more complicated. This is one of her books that is fully set in a transport medium, which makes for an interesting choice of location. It also gives us an insight into how the travel on the Orient Express would have looked back in the day, closely mirroring the author’s travel experiences. You can get the book here! 📖
4. Death on The Nile
This is another one of Christie’s books set in a transport medium, this time a steamer going down the River Nile, hence the title. The locations are all set in Egypt, and their descriptions are based on Christie’s travel experiences. This book also acts as a time capsule and showcases how the travel scene for the rich used to look back in the 1930s.
This book has an ill-fated love triangle between Linnet Doyl, Simon Doyle, and Jacqueline de Bellefort. The former was the latter’s best friend before she decided to steal the latter’s betrothed and marry him. The Doyle’s are on their honeymoon, but their special time together is ruined by the appearance of Jacqueline at every place they go to.
Linnet Doyle attempts to hire Poirot to deter her former friend from stalking her. Poroit refuses but agrees to talk to Jacqueline, to little avail. To make matters worse, all three are stuck traveling in the same streamer called Karnak. Before long, one of the three members of the love triangle dies, and suspicion falls on the other two, but as luck would have it, they have alibis. It is now Poirot’s duty to find out who is the killer lurking among them. You can get the book here! 📖
5. The Mysterious Affair at Styles
This was Agatha Christie’s first book and the one that introduced the detective Hercule Poirot to the world. It is well-known by now that Agatha Christie has an impressive knowledge of poisons owing to her job as an apothecary’s assistant during the First World War. This knowledge has helped her greatly with her plots, case in point, her first novel. She wrote this between breaks during her job to pass the time before publishing it in 1920.
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This book helped pave the way for Agatha Christie to become the ‘Queen of Crime.’ The readers are introduced to Hercule Poirot and his sidekick, Captain Arthur Hastings. The latter is a guest at the titular Styles and enlists the help of his friend Poirot when his hostess, the wealthy Mrs. Inglethorp, is found dead. This book is the beginning of the formulaic plot lines that can be seen in her later books.
A wealthy individual, not well liked by their family, and upon whose death the family will gain their fortune. They mysteriously end up dead, and everyone in the family comes under suspicion because everyone has a reason for wanting them dead. Despite the formulaic writing, this story reveals the budding brilliance of the author, who will one day become revered in the world of crime fiction. You can get the book here! 📖
6. The A.B.C. Murders
This is one of the few Agatha Christie stories that seemingly start as a novel about a serial killer, only to turn even more nefarious. This is another Hercule Poirot novel narrated by Poirot’s faithful sidekick Captain Arthur Hastings. A serial killer seems to be an alliteration fiend, killing people in alphabetical order in a location starting with the same letter as the victim’s name and surname. The victims are Alice Ascher from Andover, Betty Barnard from Bexhill, and Sir Carmichael Clark from Churston.
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At every murder location, the killer leaves his calling card, an ABC Rail Guide, near the victim’s body. Porot is baffled about the nature of this crime. Is this a random occurrence by an insane person or a calculated crime? It is up to him to find out and prevent more people from dying. This book will leave the reader guessing as to the identity of the murderer and the true motive behind the serial killings. You can get the book here! 📖
7. A Murder is Announced
This novel features the second half of Agatha Christie’s famous detective duo, Miss Jane Marple. Contrary to Poirot’s self-inflated peacock energy, Miss Marple appears to be an unassuming, sweet, old maid and is therefore underestimated. But rest assured, she is equally capable of catching the killers and does so without dropping a stitch in her knitting. The novel starts with a mysterious announcement in the local newspaper announcing a murder in the home of Miss. Letitia Blacklock.
It was not an uncommon announcement during that time period, except for the fact that the hostess had no recollection of posting the announcement. The day of the murder game arrives, and a few neighbors invite themselves to witness the game when everything turns awry. What was supposed to be a fun game turns into a real murder mystery when the lights go off, shots are fired, and a dead body turns up in Miss Blacklock’s living room.
The hostess herself has narrowly missed being shot, and this ups the stakes as it is quickly evident that there is nothing “harmless” about this game. The cops arrive towing along our resident detective, Miss Marple. Now it’s up to her to find out why Miss Blacklock’s life is at stake and who might want her dead, all while trying to prevent the killer from killing anyone else. You can get the book here! 📖
8. The Body in the Library
This book takes one of the classic murder mystery tropes, a dead body discovered in a library, and elevates it, true Christie style. This book is another Miss Marple mystery and features some recurring characters from Miss Marple’s universe, Colonel Arthur Bantry and his wife Dolly, the latter being the one who first discovers the dead body of a young girl in her library.
The discovery of the young woman’s body becomes a scandal, and Miss Marple arrives to figure out the truth. Just when they thought things couldn’t get more complicated, the discovery of another body, this time found in a burnt car, gets thrown into the mix, complicating matters furthermore. Who are these two young women, and what connection do they have with each other?
And why were they both killed on the same night? These are some things Miss Marple needs to discover, or else she runs the risk of letting the murderer go scot-free. As mentioned before, the body in the library is a cliche in the world of murder mysteries, and Christie was fascinated by it. She wanted to add her spin to this cliche and did so with great success. You can get the book here! 📖
9. Murder is Easy
This novel is a standalone novel, without the presence of any Christie detectives. This book is another one of her books that starts off looking like a set of unconnected deaths but turns out to be the work of a serial killer. On a train, Luke Fitzwilliam meets Lavinia Pinkerton (a Miss Marple stand-in). She is on her way to Scotland Yard to report a murderer responsible for the deaths of many people in her village.
She also lets out that she knows who will be murdered next if she does not report these incidents. Luke does not think much of it until he reads the death of Miss Pinkerton in the newspaper; he also finds out the death of the person she mentioned was going to die next. He realizes that something evil is afoot in that village and goes down there to try and track down the murderer.
This novel has a very eerie atmosphere to it as the murders are conducted in such a way as to appear accidental or natural. The way Christie goes about peeling the layers of the story to reveal the killer and their motive shows that she is a true master of her craft and the reason she is the beloved author of so many readers. You can get the book here! 📖
10. The Mousetrap
This is the most famous play written by Agatha Christie and the longest-running play in the world at that. It has been running continuously since it first opened in 1957 in the London West End theater (except for a brief while during the covid-19 pandemic). It has been viewed by over 10 million people and completed almost 30,000 performances. This play was based on an actual life incident, the death of foster child Dennis O’Neill at the hands of his foster parents. The play starts with the death of Maureen Lyon and shifts to Monkswell Manor.
The Manor, its owners, and their four guests are snowed in and stuck. They receive news of a police officer being dispatched to their inn as it has been connected to the death of Maureen Lyon. The detective arrives and discovers that the guest house is completely cut off from the rest of the world, as the telephone is not working. More murders are committed, and everyone becomes a suspect. All these deaths relate to the tragic death of a young boy at the hands of his foster parents.
Is it a work of revenge or a mere coincidence? You have to read the play to find out. The play is very famous because of its twist ending. Throughout its runtime, the actors have requested that the people who watched the play not to reveal the twist ending. The popularity of this play shows that Christie is not just a great novelist but a phenomenal playwright too. You can get the book here! 📖
As a lifelong fan of Agatha Christie, I believe that these are some of the books which will show new readers why this author has such a huge fan base. It has been over a century since her first book was published and almost half a century since her death, but her fame has only continued to rise, deservedly so. After reading all the books on the list, I am sure that even beginners will be converted to die-hard Agatha Christie fans.
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